Junkyard Gem: 1980 Dodge Ram D-150 Pickup

The full-size pickup truck has become America’s luxurious suburban commuter vehicle, but it wasn’t too long ago when such trucks were jolly, noisy machines better suited to construction sites and battlefields than stop-and-go highway traffic and shopping center parking lots. We will take a look at the waning years of the era of real pickups with today’s Junkyard Gem: a 1980’s half-ton Dodge D-Series in a Denver boneyard.

By “real pick-up” I mean of course really uncomfortable picking up; today’s soft pick-ups manage to be faster, safer and much more powerful, while having lower fuel consumption than their ancestors. Still, as a nation, we lost something when Detroit pickups started to look like New Yorkers or Ninety-Eights inside.

Chrysler had been using ram-head hood trims on Dodge trucks on and off since the 1930s, but Lee Iacocca got the company serious about the Ram name when he took over Chrysler Corporation. D Series trucks and B Series vans became Rams for the 1981 model year; this ’80s has a big DODGE RAM decal on the tailgate, but I’m guessing it was a dealer-installed option.

I think the springram decals were put on the fenders by the same dealer.

This truck has the 131-inch wheelbase, base cab and Sweptline bed. If you wanted the double cab, you had to buy the three-quarter or one-ton version.

The base price was $5,165 (about $19,705 in 2022 dollars), but the equipment sheet shows quite a few options, and the exterior cost was probably close to 23 grand in today’s money. The construction label on the door says it was built at Chrysler’s Jefferson plant in Detroit, which began as a Chalmers plant in 1908. In 1925 it was pure Chrysler and it remained in operation until 1990. Today Stellantis builds Cherokees and Durangos at a new(er) factory across the street.

The build label states that the original engine was a 318-cubic-inch (5.1-liter) V8, which certainly looks like what’s still there. The base engine was the bulletproof 225-cubic-inch Slant-6, but that engine only put out 110 horsepower and 175 pound-feet and would have made this 3,437-pound pickup unbearably slow even by the forgiving standards of the era (and that curb weight isn’t a typo; this truck really weighed almost half a ton less than a new Ranger). The 318 was nearly as reliable as the Slant-6, though thirstier, and rated at 145 hp/280 lb-ft in 1980. The cost: $296 ($1130 today).

Vending machines were quite popular in pickups of the day, but this one has a good old four-on-the-floor manual. The base transmission in the ’80s D-150 was a three-on-the-boom manual (available on Dodge D-series trucks through 1985), so this upgrade cost the original buyer $175 ($665 now). The three-speed Torqueflite automatic added a whopping 408 bones or clams to the bottom line ($1,555 after inflation). As you can see, 2022 trucks appear to cost a lot more even with inflation factored in, but then they look like great deals when you compare their standard features with their ancestors.

Lander, Wyoming, is in the western part of the state, certainly a 1980 destination country (as it is today, though everywhere is now collection country). Four-wheel drive would have been a good idea in that rugged mountain area, but pickup owners were resourceful back then, so this Ram has rear-wheel drive.

This Audiovox “Sound Exploder” was a serious audio business in the 80s.

The five digit odometer may read a fair 96,554 miles, but my guess is 396,554 miles. Work trucks cover a lot of ground, Wyoming spaces are vast, and this Dodge probably spent all its 42 years in the Mountain West.

Note the missing pad on the clutch pedal and the worn pad on the brake pedal.

Dodge built this generation of pickup from the 1972 through 1993 model years, so there is no shortage of these trucks today. Still, it’s sad to see this one go to the breaker.

Dodge builds pickup trucks that help build houses, and sometimes to wear houses.

So tough that they cut it up with a chop saw as proof.

Leave a Comment